Saturday, January 7, 2017

Christ is Truth and He has made Himself Known - A Homily for the Epiphany of the Lord

The Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes

Homily for the
Epiphany of the Lord

Reverend Kyle L. Doustou
January 8, 2017

Truth. What do you think of when you hear this word? In our world today it has, ironically, become a word that can mean whatever anyone wants it to mean. For some, truth is correctness, being in accord with fact: two plus two equals four and this is always and undeniably true. For others, truth is authenticity, being in accord with one’s own self: I know who I am and I am going to be true to that. And still for others, truth is simply whatever a person perceives or experiences or wishes to experience in this life. A lot of ink has been spilt on this for thousands of years...from philosophers to farmers, from theologians to scientists, from kings to peasants, humankind has grappled with what truth is, if it is, how it can be known, and if it can be known. It is good and noble and pleasing for us to pursue these questions with vigor, but it is not for us to do right now. Here, during this Holy Mass, as the Church celebrates the great Epiphany of the Lord, we are reminded that truth is more than a word to ponder or a concept to explore. Truth is a Person to love...and His name is Jesus, Who is the Christ. 

The theological and spiritual significance of this feast is simply that God has been made manifest, He has appeared to us in the flesh of the Babe of Bethlehem, the Child of Nazareth, the One Who is called Jesus. In Christ, God is immediately accessible to His own creation: He is touchable, seeable, knowable, and lovable. And this manifestation is not simply available to a select few, but for anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear, for anyone who is ready and willing to have their minds and hearts expanded beyond their wildest dreams. At first He was known only to the meek and poor of the House of Israel: a maiden from Nazareth, her carpenter husband, and a handful of shepherds. But today we celebrate that God-in-the-flesh desires to make Himself known by all people of every land and nation. The Magi – who tradition has called Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar – have arrived at the Christmas crib on bended knee. Coming from the East, they have not heard of the God of Israel, the God Who had revealed Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; they have not received the law from Moses nor have they received the words of the Prophets nor have they longed for the coming of a Messiah as the people of Israel have. They have come to the Christ Child not because they saw in Him the fulfillment of prophecy, but because He called them to Himself. The all-pervading presence of God in the world was increasingly becoming so overwhelmingly obvious to them that these wise men from afar couldn’t stay away. Deep in their souls they knew – they just knew – that every bit of wisdom they had pursued in the past and every bit of truth they had desired to grasp could be found fulfilled, in its entirety, in the fragile flesh of a small Child cradled in His mother’s arms. And so they came, crying out with humble joy that they were ready to receive and to accept and to embrace – on behalf of peoples everywhere – the One Who had made Himself manifest. And through their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, they offered Him the greater gift of their loving acceptance of His kingship, His divinity, and His humanity. These Magi remind us today, by means of their humility, their journey, and the homage they paid to the Christ Child, that truth is more accessible in this life than we can imagine, and that the reason we desire it so much is because it – He – desires us.

Moments before sending Christ off to His death, Pontius Pilate looked into His eyes and asked Him, “What is truth?” O the irony of ironies! Truth was looking straight at him and Pilate was blind to it. His eyes were opened and yet he couldn’t see...his ears were opened and yet he couldn’t hear. If Pilate had even an ounce more of humility, He would have realized that his soul was stirring before its Creator...but he was stubborn, and afraid, and proud. He couldn’t let go at that moment of whatever it was that he was holding on to and so He missed the opportunity given to Him to see the Truth, to be seen by the Truth, to love the Truth, and to be loved by the Truth.

Every person on the face of this earth is given the same opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We can be like Pilate if we choose and turn a blind eye to Him. We can reject His teachings in our own arrogance; we can reject His love in our own love of self; we can reject His goodness in our own sin. Or we can be like the Magi and dare to see Him as He is. We can allow Him to reveal Himself to us – which He does through His Church – and so expand our minds and our hearts, and grant us the precious gift of His salvation. The choice is ours.

On this great feast of the Epiphany, as we find ourselves struggling to stay afloat in the difficulties and complexities of this life, let us take refuge in the reality that God is with us, that He has taken on flesh, that He has made Himself known, and that nothing we do in this life matters more than our response to Him. We could be poor, sick, lonely, and abandoned, and yet if we give in to the amazing simplicity of God’s love for us in Christ, we will have everything we have ever desired.

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